MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – When Elon comes to visit the 10th ranked Mountaineers on Thursday night at the Coliseum, they will be facing a West Virginia team that is currently 55-3 all-time at home in non-conference play, and 104-25 all-time at the WVU Coliseum.
The Phoenix will also be facing a Mountaineer team that at 6-0, is having its best start since 2004-05, when they went 9-0 to open the season. Factor in an undefeated record last week at the Paradise Jam Tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands that culminated in a victory over No. 17 Iowa State during the Island Division Championship game, and Elon will be facing a formidable opponent.
“I was really satisfied with all three games last week, but especially during that last game,” said coach Mike Carey. “Our enthusiasm against Iowa State was unbelievable. Our conditioning was there, we shot better and we executed better, so I was very pleased.”
The expected Mountaineer starters for Thursday night are true freshman Brooke Hampton and senior Liz Repella at guard, Asya Bussie at center, and Korinne Campbell and Madina Ali at forward. All five have had outstanding starts to the season, especially Hampton, who has been filling in for an injured Sarah Miles. Last week against Iowa State, Hampton had seven assists and zero turnovers to help lead West Virginia to the championship title.
“I thought Brooke Hampton came out in the third game and played extremely well. When Brooke has the ball, everyone is trying to get open because she’s going to pass it. She also gives us capabilities to hit some three-pointers,” commented Carey.
Last week, Repella was named MVP of the Paradise Jam Tournament and currently leads the team in scoring, while Asya Bussie continues the trend of outstanding defense, co-leading the team in blocked shots with 10. Korinne Campbell comes into the game as the team’s second-leading rebounder, and Madina Ali, named to the all-star team in last week’s tournament, will be looking for her third double-double of the season against the Phoenix.
Sarah Miles will be out, missing her second game of the season due to a knee injury suffered against Virginia in the second game of the Paradise Jam Tournament. The injury occurred when she reached from behind to try and knock the ball away from an opponent, causing her ankle to turn and her knee to buckle.
“I was really worried at first,” said Carey. “We had a surgeon come look at her in the Virgin Islands, and they thought it was more serious than it was. The MRI showed that nothing was torn and that was the best news we could get. She doesn’t have a lot of swelling; right now it’s just fluid in the joint. So the biggest thing is to get the fluid out and get the range of motion back.”
With a 4-2 overall record and an 0-1 mark in the SoCon, Elon will be coming into the game looking for its first ever win against a BIG EAST opponent. The last time the Phoenix faced a BIG EAST team was on Nov. 28, 2008 when they lost to Pitt, 84-49. Before that, Elon’s only other game against a BIG EAST team took place during the 2003 Holiday Inn Mountain View Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., where they lost to Villanova, 66-45.
The Phoenix are led by sophomore guard Ali Ford, who is currently averaging 18.7 points per game, while also leading the team in assists (19) and holding the second-most steals on the team (15).
Sophomore forward Kelsey Evans will also prove a challenge, having registered her second straight double-double against Virginia Intermont on Nov. 23. She currently averages 13.7 points per game, and 11.2 rebounds per game. Last year, she recorded 55 blocks, good enough for ninth all time in Elon women’s basketball history. Junior guard Tiara Gause rounds out the top three scorers as she averages 11.0 points per game.
Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday night, and the game will be streamed live on MSNsportsNET.com.